== Power of the press? ==
Jerry Eggleshaw’s problem went back to the hot bank holiday at the beginning of May - and it only got cleared up five months later after the intervention of Forecourt Trader. I don’t report this to brag but rather to hope that a few home truths were learned. Jerry’s service station, CB Motors in Tenterden, Kent, had a till go down on the Saturday of that fateful weekend.
Because he had a service agreement on his Passport system with Gilbarco Veeder-Root that covered every day except Christmas Day, he thought it would be quickly sorted. Indeed an engineer promptly attended, advising it was a printer error. A replacement printer was sent by courier and Jerry said "We can install it ourselves." Except they couldn’t. He was further advised that it must be the modem and Gilbarco said: "We don’t do them." So Jerry scouted about, sent someone to PC World. No joy. The forecourt wound up being closed for the weekend.
Jerry contacted his insurance company and they said ’we don’t cover for that’ but agreed to contact Gilbarco on his behalf, writing to the company on July 4. No response so they wrote again. Gilbarco responded on Aug 29 saying it was looking into it.
When Jerry rang me on September 25, he still had not heard from Gilbarco nor from Esso to whom he had also reported the problem.
He said: "I’ve been with Esso since 1980 and Esso and Gilbarco pushed us into this contract with Passport and neither had the decency to get in touch."
His forecourt is on the A28 on the main coastal road. It’s a 3mlpa site and he reckons that he lost £4,000-plus that weekend (40,000 litres = £2,400 profit; shop at 21% = £1,260; jetwash £400). Wastage, staff at double time, papers unsold, I probably don’t need to spell this out.
I rang Gilbarco the next day and by the time I heard back, later the same day, Jerry had had a visit from a field manager. David Cope, national field service manager told me: "We hold our hands up that our response wasn’t as timely as it should have been. We did genuinely believe we had been in contact with the site but unfortunately we spoke to the wrong person and we did respond to the third party but it would have been better if we had spoken to the retailer."
When I caught up with Jerry later he said that the field engineer was "a very nice, understanding man". He added: "He’s an absolute diamond. If it wasn’t for him, I would have taken the matter further legally. They are giving me a free upgrade - but no compensation - and they have rewired everything and I’ve had the top brass calling from the IT department."
I think the message of the importance of communication has now been reinforced. Jerry’s station had bollards across it the whole of the long weekend. "I had people thinking I had gone bust. Some of them cancelled deposits on cars they had ordered (he is a Ford dealer). This is their garage, always has been, I’ve been here nearly 30 years, and they didn’t know what to think."
== Solving this one took less than an hour ==
Nilesh Gokani, who runs Empire Service Centre in north London’s Enfield, used to sell sale-or-return sandwiches from Freshways Food, arranged through Shell Distribution Services’ Food Service Centre. Except they weren’t selling.
"I’ve now got a Tesco Express opposite and a Gregg’s Bakery," Nilesh told me. "And my sandwiches were priced at £2.60 for a basic egg & cress and up to £2.99 for a BLT. I just couldn’t compete. I was sending back more than I was selling. I had been dealing with them for a year but in June I rang them and said it just isn’t working for either of us. They said no, I couldn’t cancel. Then I didn’t get my credit notes. It took three phone calls in June to finally get credit in September."
In August the company relented and agreed to stop supplies. Nilesh wound up with 30 out-of-date sarnies that no one picked up and was owed some £80-90 that didn’t appear to be forthcoming. Food Service told him to chuck out the smelly sarnies. He did. He rang Food Service 10 days later only to discover that the person who had advised him was no longer in their employ and the advice was in dispute.
It did only take one phone call to sort. Less than an hour later I heard from a company spokesman who said: "Unfortunately it was an admin error."
The cheque is in the post. Hurrah.
== How to be the best ==
I’ve been talking to Phil Tout who, with his lovely wife Lesley, were overall winners of the Forecourt Trader of the Year awards. I asked him for the secret of their success (aside from spending a bundle on the architect-designed rebuild) and he said: "Do your best.
"We’re with the best store group (Budgens) and the best petrol brand (Esso). I pass one store on my way to work where all you can see in the windows are stickers and the backs of packets." Yes, clean and tidy - and that doesn’t cost a fortune!